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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2018)
Second novel in the brilliant series from the bestselling author of Prince of Thorns.

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain. There will be blood.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published April 3, 2018

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About the author

Mark Lawrence

72 books51k followers
[My new books The Girl And The Moon and Dispel Illusion are out now!]

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Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. Before becoming a fulltime writer in 2015 day job was as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say 'this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is'.

Mark used to have a list of hobbies back when he did science by day. Now his time is really just divided between writing and caring for his disabled daughter. There are occasional forays into computer games too.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,544 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
January 31, 2022
Note - if you've finished this book, you might want to read Bound before moving on to Holy Sister - it's not compulsory though.


An inline comment from my editor when going through it: "Woah, nasty!"

She didn't ask me to change it though! :)

Some lines from the book:

"Never be so focused on picking a lock that you forget kicking down the door is also an option."

"Nothing is as cruel as a righteous man."

She lifted a hand, as if it were the heaviest thing in the world, to XXXX’s cheek. “You’re bleeding.”

XXXX took the fingers and kissed them. “You are my blood.”

"Hers the anger of an ocean wave rolling over deep waters to spend its white fury against the shore, one and then the next, relentless, tearing down high cliffs, pounding rocks to pebbles, grinding pebbles to sand, and thus are mountains laid low. Hers the storm’s wrath, thunder-shaken, sharp with lightning, blown on a wind that rips the oldest trees from the hardness of the ground. Hers the defiance of stone, raised in outrage against cold skies. Hers the anger that sits like broken glass within a chest, the anger that will allow no sleep, no retreat, no compromise."

“I am my own cage.” She lifts her sword. “And I have opened the door.”

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Profile Image for Elena May.
Author 11 books691 followers
January 18, 2019
“Spend too long watching the long game and the short game will kill you.”

I have a special place in my heart for chessmaster-type characters who weave complex plots and plans that takes decades in the making. Carefully placing pawns across the board, ready for moves to be made years from now. Setting everything up so that a single pull of a string would make all plots flow together into one glorious outcome. Abbess Glass delivers on that account, and it’s delicious to read.

But I have a confession to make. Although from an emotional point of view I root for Nona and Friends, just because we've spent time in their heads and have grown attached to them, on a purely logical level I sympathize with our baddie, the Emperor’s sister Sherzal. It can be frustrating, even if it’s sadly realistic, to see how on the verge of an upcoming ecological catastrophe, humans are so wrapped up in killing each other that no one thinks about uniting against the disaster. Sherzal is the only one who sees the big picture and wants to harness the power of nature. And yes, there are better and less bloody ways to achieve her goal, but I also appreciate that she is not excluding people outside of the Empire. At the same time, our xenophobic heroes dismiss the Battle Queen’s people as savages, just because they have a different interpretation of their faith. Hm, I guess I might have ended up a villain if I lived in that world.

“The greatest threat to any faith is not other faiths or beliefs but the corruption and division of its own message”

One thing didn’t work for me. Nona is so super-powered that even when she ends up in impossible situations, it’s often clear she’ll find a way out. At a couple of points the narrative tries to create false tension that is then dissolved very quickly and easily, so that there is no sense of danger. One example, in spoiler tags since it happens at the very end:

Examples like the one above cheapen all the scenes where we have real tension and danger, and we have plenty of those. They would have felt stronger without these fakeouts. Of course, there’s one more book in the series, and it’s possible the event I describe above has actual consequences that affect the plot. Seems unlikely at this stage, but if that happens, I take back my words.

Having said that, I continue to love the worldbuilding. It was a delight to discover more about Abeth's history, landscape, and people. The mythology around the Missing and all the lost knowledge surrounding them is becoming more fascinating with every page.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,169 reviews98.2k followers
December 20, 2018

ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Red Sister ★★★★★

“But I must warn you, sister, that a sickness runs in me, and if you fashion yourself my enemy I will make a ruin of your life, for I am born of war.”

Grey Sister is such a wonderful addition to this world, and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Mark Lawrence truly never disappoints, and Nona will always be one of my favorite protagonists of all time. If you guys haven’t, please pick up Red Sister and discover how amazing this world, these characters, and this story truly are.

This is a dark world, where many parents will sell their children because they cannot afford to keep them. Some of these children end up never having their stories told, but a few of them end up having a bit of magic from being a descendant of one of the four tribes, and go to Sweet Mercy's Convent in hopes of them becoming a very powerful warrior that will always fight for good.

Four Tribes that the people in this world can descend from:
Gerant - Great size and strength.
Hunska - Quick speed.
Marjal - The ability to tap into lesser magic.
Quantal - The ability to walk the Path and work greater magic.

And after horrible situation after horrible situation, our dear Nona gets purchased in Red Sister at the age of eleven. Now, it’s been five years, and Nona is just now entering Mystic class where, despite being one of the strongest young ladies in the school, she is having a difficult time.

“It’s hard to see old friends with new eyes.”

Four Classes in the Convent for the novices to learn as a group:
Red Class - Ages 9-12 typically.
Grey Class - Ages 13-14 typically.
Mystic Class - Ages 15-16 typically.
Holy Class - Ages 17-19 typically.

But these young ladies, who will be training extremely hard and diligently for ten years, can become many different things. Nona, so far, has proven that she will become one of the most feared Red Sisters to ever walk this world. But Zole, her friend from the Ice Tribe, who everyone believes is the chosen one that Nona will protect her whole life, is proving to be one of the most powerful Mystics ever.

Four Paths for the novices to take once they become nuns:
Bride of the Ancestor, Holy Sister - Honors the Ancestors and keeps the faith.
Martial Sister, Red Sister - Warriors skilled in armed and unarmed combat.
Sister of Discretion, Grey Sister - Masters of stealth and potions with shadow work.
Mystic Sister, Holy Witch - Walks the Path and manipulates threads.

But sadly, Nona can’t shake her past, or the terrible things that happened when she was only eleven- years-old. Five years later, people are still after her, and they are relentless in their pursuit to settle past grudges. Yet Nona is now carrying a new friend with her, who amplifies her powers, but at the cost of losing her shadow.

“She had lost a shadow, lost two friends, and gained a devil.”

But about half way into this book, everything gets flipped on its head, and I’m not even sure if my body can produce any more tears. Tears for sadness, tears for happiness, tears because I don’t want to wait a year to read the next book, all the tears, okay? From shiphearts, to arks, to demons, to poisons, to chains, to prophecies, to even the moon; this book has everything and makes you feel everything. And I feel forever thankful for this tale.

This book is also different, because it switches points of view with Abbess Glass a lot! And man, oh man, do I love that woman with my whole heart. This book heavily deals with betrayals, and all of the twists and turns were out of this world. But the things that these Sisters are willing to do for one another? I don’t have any combination of words for how perfect it is.

The theme of friendship, and what we are willing to do for the found family we choose, is constant throughout this amazing book. Unconditional love is the most powerful force in any world, and this book just reinforces that statement. And seeing all these phenomenal girl friendships, while they kick ass side by side? It’s something I don’t even have words for. But I’ll be forever thankful that this series exists.

Another major theme in Grey Sister is forgiveness. Some people will never learn the word, and they will let revenge poison their entire life. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, Nona proves it time and time again, but sometimes its truly the only path worth taking. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

“Trust is the most insidious of poisons.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: Physical abuse, bullying, torture, murder, death, gore, death of a child, death of a loved one, and themes of war.

My only complaint:

You all know how much I love Nevernight. Truly, with my whole heart. And these two series are so very similar, when it comes to kids training and fighting for a church, when it comes to a girl running from a past she had no control of, when it comes to both of those girls having very distinct companions. You can’t miss the similarities. And even though I do love both, the Book of the Ancestor series is just better. It feels more real, it feels more adult, and it makes me feel even more things. But if you, too, enjoy Nevernight, you have to give this series a try. I promise, you’ll fall in love!

Another amazing thing that I want to mention here, is that Mark Lawrence put a recap section at the start of this book, and it was one of the most helpful things I’ve ever seen an author do. I felt completely aware of everything going on in the world, and which specialty every teacher had, after reading. It was so damn thoughtful, and I wish every single author would do this and make it a series norm.

“We are all part of the Ancestor’s tree. A twig that breaks free will, however advantageous the wind, fall and wither in time.”

Overall, Mark Lawrence weaves together a tale that is so eloquent, yet so filled with action. I love nothing more than seeing the events of the past and the events of the present slowly coming together into a masterpiece of a series. I truly believe this is a once in a lifetime series. Mark Lawrence’s writing is so very teleportative and nothing short of beautiful. I swear, I could highlight at least half of this book. When I open a book of his, I am instantly captivated and enthralled. And I never ever want to put it down. When I say Nona is my favorite protagonist of all time, I don’t throw around that title lightly. And this story is just on a whole other tier for adult fantasy. I will forever cherish these books, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Holy Sister!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books! (If you all aren’t following her, stop depriving yourself, and hit that friend request or follow button now, because she’s a confirmed angel who blesses my life on the daily!)
June 18, 2018
I've never done one of those "book reveal" that seems so popular these days, so I thought I'd make an attempt at it for this one.

Did I do it right?

I figure since this book is like, all Harry Potter-ish, with an orphan girl learning about her magical talents, encountering rivals and making lifelong friendships along the way, my bunnies would make the perfect representative for this book. It's such a happy, cheerful, heartwarming book. Rainbows and bunnies and unicorns all the way

“Before you die I’ll take your fingers, one by one, and then your eyes.” He stood and at the last moment pulled his knife up through her nose. The sudden burning pain made her cry out. Hot blood spilled across her face, the taste of it filling her mouth.
I'M JUST KIDDING, GUYS. Do NOT get this book for your Harry-Potter loving kids unless you want to pay for a lifetime of therapy. It's bloody, there's torture and evil and murder and blood. Not recommended for kids.

Weeeeeeell....little Khanh would have loved it, but that's little Khanh. Normal children would be traumatized. So don't. Just don't.

For those mature enough for it, though, it is a wonderful book. There's failure, resilience, friendship, and a fascinatingly built-world. And enough evil to make me salivate.
The rocks around her began to bleed. An awful rasping breath shuddered through the blackness. And out there a howling hate, condensing. A darker clot of night. The stench of decay surrounded her. Screams of pain worse than the abbess had made when they’d burned her.
Love it. Can't wait for the third.
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
311 reviews1,329 followers
April 23, 2019
I received an advance reading copy of Grey Sister in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Mark Lawrence and Ace Books for this opportunity.

The second entry within the Book of the Ancestor trilogy picks up events approximately two years after the exceptional and breathtaking finale of Red Sister. Nona Grey: the black-eyed and shadowless novice is still studying potions, blade-path, kingdom histories, thread-weaving, and all the other dedicated and required lessons a potential religious assassin nun should be partaking in. Yet, she's no longer quite the same Nona Grey that we witnessed previously.

"But I must warn you, sister, that a sickness runs in me, and if you fashion yourself my enemy I will make a ruin of your life, for I am born of war."

Due to Nona's often unpredictable skills and intelligence, she has been promoted to Mystic Studies, the next stage of qualifications at the convent of Sweet Mercy, where all revere the Ancestor. She has issues at this level with potential bullies, problems in certain studying areas, however, our main protagonist is deadly and she is haunted by her past actions, literally. Lawrence is known within the fantasy scene for possessing two extremely respected qualities throughout all his stories and both are showcased here in great fashion. He is arguably one of the darkest and most brutal writers currently working yet he's also the author whose words, prose, and unbelievable quotable segments can capture readers in a trance. Engaging almost like it is all subliminal written linguistics controlling us to emphasise the movements, moments and excitement that frequent every single one of his narratives. There is a reason that on Fantasy Book Review- he is one of the most consistent, top-rated current authors and his approximately yearly novel output puts the majority of his peers to shame.

Red Sister was mainly focused on Nona Grey regarding her relationships with fellow students and side players being the focus of the action. Here, we have two, perhaps even three point of view perspectives. Nona is still the main individual and the most interesting to us even though she might not be the most important in the grand scheme of things. The other scripted perspective is Abbess Glass who is the leader of the nunnery. She's very wise, deep and oozes goodness but her narrative doesn't follow the sort of path the description may predict. Her chapters seemed to be shorter than Nona's and to begin with I only really cared about when Nona was there included and seen from Glass' viewpoint. They are very important; however, and towards the end, you equally want to see what happens to her just as much, and perhaps even more so than the trilogies lead cast member. In addition to their being more viewpoints, I found the so-called side characters much more fleshed out. Especially Zole, Ara, Kettle, and a newer entry called Keot. My mind is often dark so he was my favourite character in the whole story. Powerful perhaps, definitely mysterious and I read his words and voice with an intensity that is rarely created. "Tonight we will slice their throats as they sleep."

I have to commend Lawrence for how deep and complex his world is that he has created within the constricting miles high walls of ice that are closing on the remaining villages and cities of the corridor. Grey Sister is brimming with religions, races, family trees, exquisite archaic books, bizarre poisons, more complicated antidotes, and a potential prophecy that certain characters may orchestrate then manipulate to try to destroy or save the world.

The pacing and plotting are well worked out for the majority of readers. There was a section about half way through which caused me to not pick it up as frequently as I maybe should have. I love action, however; upon completing the book I saw that everything Lawrence did makes absolute sense, which is why he is the writer and I am not. About 30-percent through there is a twist that throws everything "into the wind." Then the last 30-percent is genius and unputdownable. This ending sequence follows two brilliant yet highly different variants of characters motives. The action sequences in these truly fluid segments were the sort I adore and often make me speechless. I had to re-read certain chapters. Not as I didn't understand what was stated but because I truly wanted to relive that scene once again before I moved on to the ever heightening and expressive climax. These sections included especially some of Keot's moments or when characters 'walked the path'. Even meeting the Noi-Guin, old favourites like Regol, and hearing rumours about Yisht, there is so much going on here that fans of the series will truly adore.

When I finished Grey Sister I then put the book down, took a deep breath and just reflected on what had taken place at the conclusion for the next half an hour. When a book has that effect on a reader then you know it is excellent and hits in all the correct emotional places. The finale is so surprisingly well worked. This book is full of elegant statements and deep passages. The whole ensemble shine. Blurb for publishers: Book of the Ancestor is Mark Lawrence's finest series by a great distance and Grey Sister is a far superior outing than the critically acclaimed first entry and his previous works. The characters are brilliant, the magic-scheme I raved about in the first book has impressed me far more this time for its creativity and intricacy sevenfold. The more devilish Nona gets the more intriguing she appears to us all. Blurb for readers: It's Mark Lawrence. So stop reading me and buy it.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,918 reviews69.3k followers
May 10, 2018
All the goddamn stars!
This was some of the best authoring I've ever seen.


If you had any idea how lazy I've become with books that don't have pictures, then you would realize how unbelievable it was that I couldn't put this one down. As it is, you'll just have to take my word for it.
I'm lazy. This was unputdownable.


The Sisters of Sweet Mercy are back and they are kicking ass in their own various ways all over the place! I loved all the Sisters and novices at the convent (minus one or two, of course!), but this time around you really get to know what makes a few of them tick.
Glass & Kettle are a-mazing!


Of course, the story revolves around Nona, but you grow to love all the characters even more than you originally did. Even some of the ones that aren't strictly good...kinda like Nona herself. Bless her little heart for trying, though.


Ok, I'm not going to ruin anything by talking about all the different plotlines, but it was full of action, twists, and Nona's unwavering loyalty to her friends. I cannot WAIT till the next book drops!

Oh, and I have to send out a HUGE thanks to Mr. Lawrence for including those first few pages of incredibly helpful reminders from the last book for those of us who don't remember stuff so well anymore. <--That, dear sir, was very nice of you.
Profile Image for Petrik.
674 reviews42.8k followers
February 28, 2019
An action-packed sequel that offers relatable commentary about faith, corruption, authority, and family.

So far, this is the highest and the most positive rating I ever gave to Lawrence’s middle-book installment; I gave both King of Thorns and The Liar’s Key 2.5/5 stars. I am very pleased to say that I loved Grey Sister. Even though I loved Red Sister more, Grey Sister was another great volume for the series and depending on how I feel about the third and final volume, Book of the Ancestor could actually end up becoming one of my favorite trilogies.

“The understanding that power corrupts is an idea older than the language we repeat in. All of us in positions that afford authority over others are susceptible, be we high priests, prime instigators, even abbesses.”

Grey Sister takes place two years after the bloody conclusion of Red Sister. Nona Grey was in Red Class and Grey Class in the first book, the first half of this novel continues the wonderfully-written magic/battle school trope by showing Nona’s journey in the Mystic Class. Nona is now fifteen years old in this book, one of the things that Lawrence did spectacularly is making sure that Nona’s inner narrative voice stayed and changed realistically according to her age. Her character development was superb and utterly clear; the reader will know that this is simply Nona growing up as a teenager. She’s more confident and more susceptible to anger, but deep down she’s still the same life-hardened kid we knew from the first book; kind, loyal, and she treasures friendship more than her life.

“Those novices are my friends and I would die for them. I would face a terror for them that I haven’t the courage to stand against on my own behalf.”

There were plenty of changes from the first book; most of them were great. The most significant change was how the storytelling structure turned into a multi-POV narrative. I found this to be a very clever decision. Other than Nona, Abbess Glass and Sister Kettle now have a POV to follow and I loved reading every moment of their perspectives.

Picture: Sister Kettle by banishedshadow

The multi-POV narrative gave better insight into the important side characters' personality and at the same time, it added depth to how well-written the characters were. Several new side characters were also introduced, but the most fantastic one was definitely Keot. Without giving any spoiler, this character reminded me of Nightblood from Sanderson’s Warbreaker; hilarious, terrifying, powerful, mysterious, and delightful to read. Truthfully speaking though, despite the fact that I enjoyed reading Nona’s and Kettle’s story, Abbess Glass was easily the number one highlight of the book for me. I was already intrigued by her wit and wisdom in the first book, but this book enhanced it even further by giving her a POV to follow; she completely stole the spotlight of the second half of the book for me.

“The greatest threat to any faith is not other faiths or beliefs but the corruption and division of its own message.”

All that being said, there was one minor issue I had with the book: the pacing in the second half. The second half of the book took the story in a different direction by moving away from the school setting. This storytelling direction was mostly wonderful because it shows the world outside of the convent more. Plus, the second half gave more revelations on the world-building and history of the world; at the same time adding more mysteries to be answered in the last volume. However, almost the entirety of the second half was non-stop action scenes, this was especially true for Nona’s time in Tetragode. Although the action itself was well-written and Lawrence did slip in Abbess Glass’s POV for a change of pace in the narrative, I found myself feeling bored by Nona’s time in Tetragode.

“It's when your power is taken, or given, away that you discover who your friends are, brother. There's a lesson for us all in that.”

The climax sequence of this book, however, proves to be as brilliant and tension-packed as the concluding battle in Red Sister. With great characterizations, world-building, and beautiful prose, Grey Sister ended up becoming a terrific sequel that will push me to start Holy Sister as soon as possible, and I'm going to prove that by starting it now.

“There are many poisons that will induce madness but none perhaps quite so effective as love.”

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Daniel B..
Author 4 books32k followers
December 6, 2019
While Red Sister was a slow burn that was well worth its pace, Grey Sister has ascended to all new highs for the Book Of The Ancestor series.

One thing I failed to speak on full in my full review (https://youtu.be/aJPs1Uv0KpE), is how creative of a world is being crafted here as well. It seems ever possible element of this story is being masterfully worked to draw the reader into this dying world as deeply as possible.
Author 1 book358 followers
April 17, 2018
Grey Sister might as well be the most well-written book I've read in my life.

It's been two years since Nona Grey killed Raymel Tascis in the Corridor. Now she's back in the Convent of Sweet Mercy and the Mystic Class, training to join one of the four orders: Holy, Grey, Red, or Mystic Sister. But when an Inquisition arrives, Nona has trouble trying to hide two secrets that could get her expelled: A forbidden search of the stolen shipheart, and a demon that she's carrying under her skin.

"Every law of church or state seeks to separate you from your anger. Every rule is there to tame you - to take from your hands that which you should own. Every stricture aims to place the vengeance that is yours in the grasp of courts, juries, justice and judges. Books of law look to replace what you know to be right with lines of ink. Prisons and executioners stand only to keep your hands from the blood of those who have wronged you. Every part of it exists to put time and distance between deed and consequence. To lift us from our animal nature, to cage and tame the best. "

In Grey Sister, Mark Lawrence is reminiscent of a well-trained juggler, for he excels in balancing the most important elements of a story such as theme, plot, setting and conflict on one hand while he juggles character development, world-building and magic system on the other. I once said that Mark's work is one of beauty and ingenuity, and that is once again evident through his prose. Prose that not only assembles, orders and modifies, but also weaves together and adds value to the many layers of a story which unfolds with the precision of a timepiece crafted by a master artisan and excels at depicting realistically how deep loyalty lies in one's soul, for it is the paragon of love.

I could keep going. I could rave about how Grey Sister is an epos in its original meaning; a literary masterpiece with no equal that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. I could praise it until I run out of words and need a thesaurus to continue. But I'll not. I'll simply tell you to read it and decide yourself.
Profile Image for Nicole.
731 reviews1,832 followers
January 7, 2021
Red Sister was probably the best first in a series book I read last year so even if I try to lower my expectations when I read any book, I can’t say they were none. The world enchanted me, the characters amazed me, and the plot entertained me quite a lot. While Grey Sister didn’t disappoint, it pales in comparison with Red Sister.

My memory was fuzzy when I started reading this book and Mark Lawrence provided a summary which was helpful, however, I would’ve liked more info about Zole and Joeli. And maybe the ending? I was able to figure out stuff along the road, though. Still, I’m very thankful! More authors should do that.

In this book Nona is around 15 in mystic class. As she tries to survive every day’s life in Sweet Mercy, among friends and “enemies”, the people she hurt from her past haven’t forgotten her. I honestly can’t give a longer premise because then I would have to talk more in detail and they aren’t few. As much as that might make the book look like it was full action. It wasn’t. It was slow and bored me a bit at first. By that I mean I could’ve easily stopped reading anytime. It didn’t keep me interested. However, I made it through the first 20% (I guess) and things started to pick up. I became interested in some plots like the cave and Nona’s interactions with Joeli.

While some events intrigued me, like what would be the grey sister trial and if Nona is going to pass, and when things got into motion for the finale of this book , others made me to stop reading altogether. I understand why Abbess Glass’s chapters are necessary however, her chapters held so little useful information. I get that they play a role in the twist at the end, but they could’ve been summed up all the same. I wanted to jump to Nona’s chapters (it made me feel bad, though, because the Abbess is such a great character). We discover a lot about her past and the politics of this world. I wanted to learn more about the Missing but alas I think it’ll be reserved for the final book of the trilogy.

The most memorable character in this book for me was Zole. She’s so mysterious and unpredictable. Unlike Nona who is always angry at the world, Zole is focused and always keeps her cool. I wish we saw more of her. It’s a very nice change that the MC isn’t the chosen one. I can’t wait to see what the Agartha will do in the third book which I expect to be the best. I also liked Kettle and Apple’s relationship even more in this book. Such great characters! Looking forward to learning more about them.

The second main problem I had with this book was how much it resembled Red Sister. Nona, the totally awesome most badass kid ever, stayed the same. She didn’t feel like an 8 yo in Red Sister and she certainly doesn’t feel like a 15 yo in this book. She sounded the same. No character development. Maybe yes, more honest but other than that, I couldn’t find anything distinctive. Grey sister ignored one of the things I liked about it the most in the first book: friendship. Her relationship with Ara and the others was barely explored. Same old same old. We saw so little of them. I wish it was more developed because it’s one of the highlights of this series. We saw more of Nona/Zole interactions but even that wasn’t satisfying.

Briefly, this book was entertaining but if you are expecting something better than its prequel, you better lower your expectations from now. It’s still worth reading because this trilogy is something else. Not many teen-ish high fantasy worth reading out there. It certainly outshine Prince of Thorns (which btw I couldn’t finish). Nona is so dark but also kind and cares about her friends. Mark’s writing style is stunning although he described certain things too much sometimes. Can’t wait to know how the events will unfold in the finale! I hope it takes less than a year to come out since it’s already written but somehow, I doubt it.
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,828 reviews29k followers
March 30, 2020
3.75 Stars

This book is pretty much exactly like the first book in the way it played out for me...

The first half was a trudge-fest and I borderline questioned why I was still even reading it...and then the second half made it all clear.

I am hesitant to talk too much outside of broad generalities here as I don't want to spoil anything that occurred in either this book or book one, so I will just say that I love Abbess Glass most of all. I love her wily machinations and the way she truly does care about her girls in the end.

I also still really love Nona and her dedication to and belief in the bonds of friendship.

I will definitely be finishing this series as 1) I want to know how it ends, duh, and 2) I want to read the series about the ice folk (Zole's people) that I hear Lawrence will be releasing in the upcoming future.
Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews673 followers
April 14, 2018
4.25ish stars.

I've been reading a lot of good books recently. Makes me want to read a gutter book just so I can skewer it in a review. This is a solid follow-up to Red Sister and is a worthy addition to the series even if it can't match the feeling of surprise that came from experiencing the refreshing novelty and creativity introduced in the first book for the first time.

I was unsure about the first half-ish of the book. All of the petty middle school drama - mean, rich girl bully cliques; wretched, crotchety teachers; angsty romance; basically all of the young adult-ness - that Red Sister (thank the Ancestor) managed to circumvent, seemed to rear its ugly head. Thankfully it's balanced by the introduction of a new POV character, Abbess Glass, whose maturity and cunning elevate the story above female-Kvothe school shenanigans.

Nona is still Nona, a ruthless, demonic version of Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls. As always, she's surrounded by a strong supporting cast of female characters, including the Abbess, Sister Kettle, Arabella, Darla and Zole, whose increased involvement provide a depth and fullness RS never quite reached. I actually found the Abbess's chapters more engaging as she manipulated her way to the meat of the story while Nona was cavorting about (being hunted, tortured, blah blah, etc.).

It ends on a cliffhanger and I'm already ready for the final installment which is why I feel obligated to thank Mark Lawrence for 1) finishing the series before publishing and 2) including a recap section at the beginning of the book. What a gentleman! Finally, I can't emphasize enough how great the audiobook narrated by Heather O'Neill is. I can't imagine experiencing this world without her Irish lilt to guide me.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Emma.
975 reviews975 followers
May 22, 2018
Grey Sister brings us right back to Sweet Mercy, around two years after the gore stained climax of the first book, where Nona Grey and her new dark passenger dream of deadly punishments for murderer Yisht while continuing a life of relative normality within the convent walls. We're back where we were before, we're learning about thread-weaving, we're fighting with mean girls, we're spending time with friends. It’s a moment of relative calm, with each girl honing her tribal talents and developing the specific skills necessary to succeed in the Order she hopes one day to attain. For Nona, the choice might seem obvious, she is destined for Red, yet the secrets she is hiding threaten not only her future as a fully fledged Sister, but her immediately safety and even her life. While her intelligence and inventiveness are tested within Sweet Mercy’s walls, the world outside arrives to shatter this fragile normality in the form of an Inquisition, an encroachment of high politicking only partially exposed in Red Sister, and the kind of high stakes games which jeopardise more than just Nona’s destiny. The tension created by the clash of two worlds is expertly done, the noose Nona escaped in Red Sister falling once again round her neck, and tightening with her every slip. Then in one sudden move, Mark Lawrence throws your every expectation to the wind and blows the future wide open. It’s the kind of sharp left turn that has your jaw dropping, but brings a huge smile to your face, knowing that dark deeds and bloody action are coming…

The surprises mean that the wider world is more vividly portrayed than in the first book, with the created realm ever more revealed, both in the detailed scene setting and the world-large issues that are going to come more heavily to bear on the story. From the underground tunnels of the Tetragode, to the destructive power of the Ark controlled moon, there is an authentic interconnectedness, a multilayered and technicolour society with contemporary political, economic, and religious concerns built on a legendary and mythical past. This is a world that is changing and the scramble for power, which in itself reflects a greater competition for life giving land and resources, is more than just a backdrop for character action, it adds a tenseness you can feel in your gut. Nona is revealed to be only one part, though important, of a much larger struggle for survival- one which is going to be very difficult to ‘win’ in the traditional sense. While the respective players fighting each other provides some epic battles, it becomes ever more clear that each group is engaged in an intense, and until now hidden, competition for the means to deal with the coming disaster- an end to the world as they know it.

The complexity of the situation allows the characters really shine. Not only is there a more evolved version of Nona, a girl somewhat altered by the recent past but whose essential characteristics remain her most valuable strengths, the chapters from other perspectives allow for conflicting and more nuanced interpretations of events and individuals. Lawrence gives a lot of time to Nona and her friendship group, allowing the reader to feel like they really know them- their hurt, hatreds, or happiness authentically presented, driving their thoughts and actions. It puts you firmly on their side, the trust and loyalty of their friendships and the bonds of their community so positively contrasted with the greed and dishonesty, personal ambition and pursuit of power evinced by their enemies. The players of Team Bad seen just a little in Red Sister come fully into play here, with the Noi-Guin engaging in some serious badassery, but special mentions go out to the sly mercilessness of both Yisht and Sherzal. It’s wonderful to read a book filled with female characters who have real agency, regardless of their chosen side. And do they ever have some blade-sharp handiwork in this book. After the first quarter, it's packed with it. There's blood everywhere. Buckets of it. Dead people underfoot. Explosions. Surprises. Probably brain matter. It's messy. And worse, all the best scenes were underground- the mix of violent, bloody action and limited, uncertain space brings an edge-of-your-seat nervy claustrophobia, a need to escape that feels like you're the one trapped in the tunnels. Without doubt, some of Mark Lawrence’s best writing. To top it all, a finale so incredible it has to be read several times over… and then once more. I have no idea how he’s going to finish all this off in Holy Sister but, by the Ancestor, I can’t wait.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books397 followers
December 21, 2022
"How do you—" Kettle abandoned the question in favour of "Why do you want to find Nona?"
"We planned to visit the ice together." Zole almost shrugged, turned away as if embarrassed. "She is the Shield. I am not supposed to lose her."
"I didn't think you believed in all that Chosen One stuff?" Kettle crossed to the first two attackers and stooped to recover her throwing stars with the aid of a knife.
"I do not."
"Why then?" The second star came loose with a wet noise.
Somewhere behind Kettle, Zole spoke in a voice almost too quiet to hear. "She is my friend."

That is my absolute favorite scene in Grey Sister, the second volume of the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, and a book filled with so many amazing scenes. Grey Sister builds on the wonderful qualities of Red Sister, as already detailed in my review of that book.

Grey Sister is full of action—there is never a dull moment. But what I like most about this book is its wonderful cast of characters. The novice and purported "Chosen One" Zole is a favorite of mine. I love to see how she grows and starts to express her emotions, especially in her friendship with Nona. We also get to know Sister Kettle a lot better, who is an awesome character in every respect.

Nona grows so much in Grey Sister as she battles a literal demon, Keot, who embedded himself within her after escaping the dying body of Raymel Tacsis at the end of Red Sister. Keot provides a lot of dark humor as he pushes Nona toward the most violent solution to any problem. But Nona doesn't let Keot compromise her core belief in friendship, even when certain people may be undeserving of that friendship.

Considering Mark Lawrence's five published trilogies, there is strong empirical evidence that he rejects the concept of a sophomore slump. His trilogies always start off with a strong first book and then just keep getting better from there. Grey Sister is no different: Mark Lawrence builds on his already strong foundation of Red Sister and takes the story off to new heights. And it just gets better still in Holy Sister, the final volume of the trilogy.

I can't help but compare Grey Sister to other noted second books. Nona Grey has some common features as Rin, the main character of R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War trilogy, as well as Kvothe, the main character of Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle. Like Rin, Nona has an inner demon driving her toward violence. The difference is that Nona is able to fight the demon, whereas Rin just gives in to the violence. As a result, Nona has much more compelling character development than Rin across the full trilogy. Like Kvothe, Nona overcomes an impoverished childhood to be enrolled at an elite magic school, but then must flee the school after being framed for expulsion-worthy conduct by an obnoxious rich classmate. But again, there is a key difference in character development. While Kvothe wanders around aimlessly for most of The Wise Man's Fear, Nona uses this opportunity to confront her past and truly grow as a character. This growth is what makes Grey Sister so much more effective as a second volume compared to either The Dragon Republic or The Wise Man's Fear.

If you will indulge me, I'd like to spend the final part of this review on some personal speculations regarding the magic system in The Book of the Ancestor. While Mark Lawrence's trilogies can each be fully enjoyed on their own, there are subtle connections across all five of his trilogies which paint a bigger picture of the "Lawrenceverse." Considering these connections, my speculations concerning the Four Tribes on Abeth are:

1. Gerant - Those with gerant blood grow very large, much like Gorgoth in The Broken Empire. This abnormally large growth may be the result of a mutation caused by the nuclear war which destroyed the Builders' civilation and ultimately led to the post-apocalyptic world of The Broken Empire.

2. Hunska - Those with hunska blood can move fantastically fast. This quickness may be a result of relativistic time scales, such as discussed in the Impossible Times trilogy, where scientists were able to develop technology to control the relative passage of time. Hunskas may seem fantastically fast, but maybe they just slowed down the clock for the rest of us.

3. Marjal - They have access to the lesser magics, including mastery of the elements. An example of this is Nona's flaw-blades. Marjal powers may relate to having increased mental control over the collapse of the quantum mechanical wavefunction, which was alluded to extensively in The Red Queen's War triology, especially The Wheel of Osheim.

4. Quantal - Quantals "can access the raw power of the Path and manipulate the threads that are woven to create reality." This builds on marjal powers and also seems to include the power of quantum entanglement. The thread bonds that are developed between characters with quantal powers are certainly reminiscent of quantum entanglement. Plus, it's right there in the name: quantal.

All of this is just speculation. We may learn answers to these questions in The Girl and the Moon, the third Book of the Ice, when it is published soon! Meanwhile, this is a great time to read or reread The Book of the Ancestor trilogy.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,205 followers
May 25, 2018
[2.5 stars] I hate to say it, but I think Grey Sister suffered from middle-book syndrome.

It kind of did the opposite of Red Sister, which started out slow and gained momentum. Grey Sister started out with a bang and engaged me with all the things I look for in a good fantasy. It was a nice continuation of the story that took place primarily in a school setting (I never get tired of school settings). There were also a lot of great character dynamics and some really interesting training scenes. Nona was testing her boundaries to see if she had the makings to be a “grey sister,” which was easily the highlight of the book for me.

The trouble is, none of those awesome things had anything to do with the second half of the book. By about the 75% I was seriously considering a DNF. What ultimately kept me reading was a general appreciation for the complex world and interesting cast of characters. And a mild curiosity over where the story would go next. I also really like Nona as a main character. She’s smart and resourceful without feeling too superhuman. It’s nice to finally see her start to open up her heart.

Although the last 50% had quick pacing and a lot of action scenes, it didn’t feel like anything was happing to advance the overall plot of the series. It felt like we were on one big tangent with no purpose other than as filler content. I acknowledge that it may serve a purpose in the greater scheme at some point (after all, I’ve no idea what’s planned next), but unfortunately for me it felt inconsequential and was a struggle to get through.

The world really has a lot of things going on – so many ideas left and right that it’s on the cusp of throwing in the kitchen sink. However they’re woven together well enough that it all seems to work. This last book has me feeling a slight Fifth Season (Jemisin) vibe and I really like where the overall story is developing. I think my profound interest in that is both why I want to continue reading, but also why I was so disappointed in the lack of expansion.

Series status: downgraded. I’d like to see where the story goes next, but have to admit I’m no longer eager to pick it up asap.

Recommendations: I think there are a lot of cool elements to this series. It currently lands itself in the middle of my recommendation spectrum. I buddy read this with my Goodreads group and, while most agreed it lost momentum in the second half, I think they all liked it more than I did, so take my rating with a grain of salt. ;P [I wrote this review and assigned a rating, then I checked how others rated it on Goodreads… I’m definitely the anomaly here].

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
Blood Song (Raven's Shadow, #1) by Anthony Ryan The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin Heart of the Mirage (Mirage Makers, #1) by Glenda Larke Court of Fives (Court of Fives, #1) by Kate Elliott The Legend of Eli Monpress (The Legend of Eli Monpress, #1-3) by Rachel Aaron
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,607 reviews1,481 followers
December 16, 2018
5 walk the path Stars

That moment when you are happily surprised that not more of your favorite characters died, but reluctant because there is one more book and than means that they aren't safe yet and you know there is a bloodbath coming.


OMG it is like Mark Lawrence has been the reader of book in a series before and thought ‘man I hate all this recapping and I totally forgot who dude#6 was’. Well he saved me from any of those feelings by giving a super brief intro to remind you of all the important stuff you’d need to remember from the first book.


You might be thinking nuns, well that sounds utterly boring and nice. You would be wrong, especially when they are specially trained assassins. Sure they learn about ‘The Ancestor’ their deity but for nuns in training they spend much more time learning how to kill a man with a toothpick than praying.

Nona is wonderful in a stabby stabby kind of way. As someone who can kill you in a hundred ways she is really a pretty nice girl for the most part, just remember to be her friend and not her enemy.
”I love you as a sister, and when we die we will be together in the Ancestor, our blood mixed.” […] ”But I must warn you, sister, that a sickness runs in me, and if you fashion yourself my enemy I will make a ruin of your life, for I am born of war.”

We fast forward to four years past Red Sister and Nona has grown. She is stronger, she has even more people she considers friends and has found a home at the covenant. She has also gained a devil under her skin but more on that later. But once again we have come to a fork in the road for Nona and everything in her life is about to change again.

The best part of this book was that we get not only Nona’s PoV but one from Abbess Glass too. I have to say that in Red sister the two characters that I wanted to know more about were Glass and Zole so getting a PoV from Glass opened up my understanding of the story so much more. Zole is still a little bit of a mystery, however I like ‘The Chosen One’ more and more as the pages turn. But Abbess Glass is a wonder and even being in her head it was clear that the reader is still going to be surprised by the political machinations happening.

Keot was my favorite new character. He is one of the missing and currently under the skin of little Nona. And Keot is no Jiminy Cricket, unless Jiminy started smoking bath salts. All Nona needs is someone urging her to kill…kill…kill. Still Keot gives the reader insight to the missing and some of the history to this world along with something for Nona to interact with.

Another thing I really like about the entire series is that the sisters of the Ancestor really do rally around each other. I love how the bonds between almost all of the sisters are tied and just how far each would go for the others. Even the girls Nona’s age are building some extremely solid bonds. I love how each tries to lift the others higher, or pushes them to be better.
I've been at this convent five years, Keot, and I've learned to believe in something more than myself. All this time Wheel has been banging on about the Ancestor, about all those who came before and have gone beyond. But the larger thing I believe in is what's here and now. Those novices are my friends and I would die for them. I would face a terror for them that I haven't the courage to stand against on my own behalf.

With the revelations throughout the book it will be interesting to see just how this all plays out. Will we get more information about the arc’s and shiphearts. Like what they were and how the missing are a part of them. I want to understand the mirror that is the moon and if it can be used to save this dying planet or is it still doomed to fall. I for one am very excited to see where this story will lead us.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lucy.
415 reviews610 followers
May 2, 2020
4.5**** rounded up!

There is purity in rage. It will burn out sorrow. For a time. It will burn out fear.... Rage is the gift out nature gave to us, shaped by untold years. Why discard it?

I was so glad to be back in Nona’s world of Abeth for the second book in this trilogy series. This book picked up right from the ending of the last book where we get to see a certain Sister’s fate. The book then suddenly switches to two years later where Nona has now entered Mystic Class at Sweet Mercy.

Here she is still angered over her friends death and vying for more revenge. Certain events happened in the first book and we get to see what the outcome of this was and how it effected and changed Nona and Sweet Mercy. In Mystic Class Nona has new enemies to deal with, those that are privileged and spiteful as well as bitter over Nona’s killing of a Tacsis- a powerful and rich family member. They will stop at nothing to try and see Nona punished, banished or out to death at Sweet Mercy.

However, we also get to see Nona’s beloved classmates from the first book. This book relied heavily on the importance of loyalty and friendships which Nona needs as a reprieve from her grief and anger. These scenes of friendships were often magnificent and warm-hearted in an otherwise cold dark world.

This books also explored POV’s from Abbess Glass- the head of Sweet Mercy. Sweet Mercy is not safe and the Inquisitors are upon them to ensure that no questions are asked against the Church’s religion and that the “correct” teachings are closely followed. Through Abbess Glass we get to see the politics that are played across Abeth on a grander scale as well as the influence and power of the Church across the Empire. This book largely focuses on politics and religion and how these are used as a weapon to suit those in power. We get to see Abbess Glass in all her cunningness, wits and observations as she battles to play the game and keep Sweet Mercy safe from others hands.

While the first book was more slow paced and cut back to Nona’s childhood and time outside Sweet Mercy, the second book was so tension filled and fast paced that I had a hard time putting it down.

I love this world, Nona Grey and her friends. As Nona as well as Abbess Glass have more enemies stacked against them, I can’t wait to see how things conclude in book 3! I hope it is bloody and with much needed revenge.

Profile Image for William Gwynne.
355 reviews1,470 followers
July 5, 2021
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

Wow, I loved this book. I thought it would be nigh impossible to equal or surpass the enjoyment I received from Red Sister, I was wrong, very wrong.

Grey Sister continues all the great aspects of the former book with an intriguing plot, diverse characters and a vivid world, then added a lot more consisting of larger conflicts and countless more twists.

The prose was once again wonderful from Mark Lawrence with a poetic edge that guided me from page to page which had me marvelling at how long I had been reading with absolute concentration on the story.

The plot developed at an appropriate rate with tension consistently rising throughout and then hitting a peak which was well worth the wait as grand events coincided and the consequences of actions rose dramatically. The twists that were revealed completely shocked me and directed the book into an unguessable future which made the experience even more exciting.

The characters were once again amazing with their variety of personalities which allowed me to despise and love them and to feel their successes and failures. There were a few heart wrenching moments which truly reveal how the characters have come to matter to me.

The ending was fabulous as it produced even more adversaries for the protagonists to face in the last instalment in which I hope they deliver a large dose of deserved vengeance.

Grey Sister is a definite five star rating just as its predecessor was and I am going to dive straight into the finale of the series, Holy Sister, which I am incredibly pleased to say has just been released, meaning I will not have to spend an agonising period of time waiting. I am confident that it will be a brilliant ending overflowing with memorable moments which will bring the story to an impressive close.

My full review of Grey Sister is on BookNest now! My 40th on the site!

BookNest-Grey Sister
Profile Image for Mitriel Faywood.
Author 1 book102 followers
January 6, 2018

I still remember the way Prince of Fools took me by surprise following The Broken Empire trilogy and how I needed a little time to adjust to reading something so different from the same author. Both book series were very much character-driven. Jorg a merciless, broken, cold-blooded killer, but also fiercely intelligent and a philosopher at heart. Hence his tale, just like his worldview, became dark, gritty, dramatic, his observations clever and beautifully worded. Jalan was funny and shallow, hence in the Red Queen’s War the poetic prose had been largely replaced by humour, and instead of revenge-seeking massacres we embarked on epic adventures the protagonist got pulled into.

I thought I learned my lesson then, which was that you shouldn’t start reading a new Mark Lawrence work with fixed anticipations. He’s incredibly talented and instead of trying to replicate what he did well in the past, what already proved successful, he will want to push himself and see how far he can stretch those creative muscles, reaching into different tones, styles or even genres. So it’s best if we just let go our expectations and keep an open mind, because if we don’t and keep on looking for what we want to see in his new books we might miss entirely what he’s giving us instead.

And yet, Red Sister once again took me by surprise. It was such a departure from everything I’ve seen Mark write before. But at the same time it also allowed him to show off skills and qualities he couldn’t showcase in the previous books. One of these was the ability to present us with a larger cast and the complex ways their relationships move the story forward. While Jorg travelled with his brothers, he didn’t allow anyone too close to him, and so we only got a restricted, blurred picture of his companions, his relationships with them simple and without emotional complications. Jalan, similarly self-centered, cared little for most people around him. He had a unique friendship with Snorri, but otherwise we only occasionally managed to glimpse behind his well-guarded walls and it was even more seldom that his feelings towards others have influenced his actions. (Unless they were fear or lust, of course.)

Nona however has always been someone who wanted to belong, to be accepted, someone who loved her friends, even when they turned against her. She’s both curious about people around her and cares about them. Which in turn allows us to learn more about characters who one way or other are important to her, and see how these relationships grow, change and affect her life, her immediate environment and ultimately her whole world.

She’s also a hero, following a villain and an anti-hero in the previous trilogies, with a disposition towards good, towards helping others and making the world a better place. This might have also contributed towards the book’s popularity with readers, several of them who admittedly didn’t like The Broken Empire books very much enjoying The Book of the Ancestor. Red Sister in fact has a higher Goodreads rating than either Prince of Thorns or Prince of Fools and let me tell you now:

If you liked Red Sister, you’re going to love Grey Sister!

Here’s why:

1. The strengths of the first book become even more prominent in the second

Once foundations of a story are properly laid down in a first book, (think worldbuilding, (both in a geographical and in a cultural/political sense), introducing the main characters, or understanding the basics of how the magic system works, etc.), the second book should allow the author to build on those foundations and raise the story to the next level. Mark Lawrence doesn’t so much as takes things to the next level but takes off from those foundations and shoots for the stars.

The characters become even clearer, easier to set apart, yet more complex, their relationships stronger, more vivid, more colourful. In turn readers will likely find themselves more emotionally attached, and not just to the main character, but to a number of them, so letting themselves to be moved even more by their story. Seeds that were carefully sown between the icy storylines a year previously spring to life now, blossoming into the main plot of the trilogy.

“Who’s got something to report?” Nona looked to Ruli first. Ruli was on gossip duty, gathering any snippet of information that leaked into the convent through its connections with the outside world. Ruli had a talent for both creating and gathering gossip.

“I do! I really do!” Jula stepped forward, half-​raising her hand before remembering that she wasn’t in class.

“I was reading the appendices in Levinin’s older works. Everyone always quotes from the Seven Histories of Marn but—”

“What did you find?” Darla had even less patience for Jula’s booklore than the others.

“More about shiphearts in one page than I’ve discovered in all the books I’ve searched through since we started looking!” Jula grinned.”

2. Fewer classes

Reading a fair number of reviews since April I couldn’t help but note that in some cases people felt the classes were slowing the story down and they were eager to get to where they felt “things were happening.” I have to admit, this was something I also raised with Mark at the time of beta-reading, but he himself felt that they were important to understand how the magic system worked. Furthermore, he set out to write a magic school themed trilogy. How novices studied and trained there was very much part of the story itself. So if you didn’t enjoy them so much, fear not, there will be definitely fewer of those in the second book. And if you did enjoy them, you’ll be pleased to hear that those few that are yet to come will be really good!

“Zole got to her feet, scowling, as the Poisoner beckoned her to the front.

Sister Apple offered her a smile in return. ‘Now, Zole, tell me how much you love to dance.’ She raised a hand to forestall the objection. ‘And while you sell me the lie, also convince me, without using words, that you’re a native of Verity born to a merchant family of moderate wealth.’ In that moment the nun’s accent so mirrored that of Zole and Yisht that Nona could believe her born on the ice and raised for thirty years without sight of green.

‘I live to dance.’ Zole spoke through gritted teeth, tightening each word into something that sounded more like a Durnish sailor in pain than any subject of the emperor, let alone one of Verity’s moneyed class.”

3. There’s more humour in the second book

No, we won’t have anyone turning into Jalan Kendeth all of sudden. But there will be definitely more humour arising from situations and from the stark contrast of characters in the book. Some of this will be down to a new character called Keot. Having said that it’s best not to know who this Keot is prior to reading the story and I hope that none of the early reviews will spoil it for you. Just know that he’ll be a great addition to what’s ahead.

4. There’s also more action and more tension

Right from the beginning we get to worry about characters we grew fond of in the previous book. With the ice closing, the moon falling, the pressure grows on the world and on those who try to control it. Even the classes taking place won’t quite have that peaceful bliss to them anymore one might expect. With the inquisition’s deadly hand reaching into Sweet Mercy, its cold fingers trying to close around its prey, there’s a constant threat hanging over the Rock of Faith and it’s not the only one. Yet, it’s around the middle of the book when things really take off. Quite literally. In fact, it’s best to hide somewhere with the book from that point onwards, because chances are you won’t be able to put it down.

(you can read the rest of my blogpost here: https://thatthornguy.com/2017/11/15/a... )


Following reactions to this little piece below, which I foolishly thought was going to look clever, I've written an actual, spoiler-free review of Grey Sister, which I'll be publishing on https://thatthornguy.com/ probably sometimes next week. I really hope you'll like it. In any case I did my best. Will let you know once it's up.


What is Grey Sister and what it’s used for:

Grey Sister, Second Book of the Ancestor, falls under the heading "international bestselling fantasy titles", also known as bloody good reads. These books alter the levels of chemicals in the brain to relieve symptoms of boredom, restlessness, gloominess, melancholia and dispiritedness.

What you need to know before reading Grey Sister:

Grey Sister uses the foundations Red Sister was built on and takes your sacred journey to the next level. It’s faster, bolder and more perilous than its predecessor, for which reason we recommend you only start reading it once you’re in a safe, undisturbed environment. If that’s not possible, we recommend using any necessary signs/tools for discouraging fellow humans or pets from disrupting your deep spiritual experience.

Possible side effects, warnings and precautions:

Sleeplessness, sudden mood swings, losing track of time, forgetting to eat, getting off from public transport, everything else you might had planned. As always, we recommend discussing your symptoms with your fellow readers once you finished the title, as this will help the production and distribution of further books.

Keep out of the sight and reach of children (and everyone else in the family until you finished reading it).

Grey Sister might make you over-emotional or lost in your thoughts. If you experience this, do not drive or use machinery.

As with any Mark Lawrence novel: Please purchase and read responsibly!

For more information and possible early copies follow: https://thatthornguy.com/
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews217 followers
March 3, 2018
Mark Lawrence’s new Ancestor Series is a triumph. I enjoyed Red Sister but I feel like Grey Sister is its better in every way shape and form. This second book builds on the characters and the world in such huge leaps and bounds it makes the first book feel like merely a set up when in reality it was on, if not top of, every fantasy fan’s Best of 2017 list.

It’s two years since the events of Red Sister and Nona is getting ready to take her final test to qualify to enter the Grey order. Despite this passage of time she is still devastated by Hessa’s murder and utterly driven by her vow of revenge against Yisht, Hessa’s killer and thief of the convent’s shipheart. The animosity she exhibited on Raymel Tascis death and the depth of her hatred toward Yisht have also unleashed something else that may prove to be a help or a hindrance.

Nona has always been a creature of passion and her love for her friends shines through each page as much as her willingness to slaughter her enemies. It’s probably both her greatest strength and weakness all at once as it drives her forward and makes her likeable but also allows others to manipulate her with little difficulty. More than once I inwardly screamed at Nona to control herself, see taunts for what they were and walk away from that bitch but she rarely played ball. That being said when she is pushed to her limits you never quite know what will happen so it’s hard not to anticipate and enjoy such moments when you see them coming. She is a fierce friend, a powerful young woman, a soul torn by circumstance and Nona is quickly becoming one of my favourite characters. Mark writes her beautifully.

Another reason I loved Grey Sister was the development of Abbess Glass and Sister Kettle. In Red Sister I found it a little hard to distinguish between some of the nuns as I tried to figure out who was a Snape and who was just a Sprout, but there is no question in this one who is front and centre and worth keeping an eye on. Abbess Glass is a major piece of work and her quest to guide the development of Nona and Zola’s power whilst protecting them from the politics machinating within the church and the nobility is intricate and filled with turns and twists. She toys with other characters, her wit always giving her a comeback, her shrewd intelligence telling her when to keep it to herself and when to launch it at her target like a spear. She’s the sort of character you want to see prevail as her words and actions encourage you to never give up hope. Then we have a Kettle who will undoubtedly win the heart of every reader as she executes the role of ‘ninja assassin with a hug on the way’ to absolute perfection. The attachment she feels for her students is palpable and there can be no doubt that love is the thing that drives Kettle forward and gives her the strength to outmanoeuvre her opponents again and again. It is through Kettle we learn a lot more about the magical system at play in this world and there are a number of brutally awesome scenes where she is forced to think and fight her way out of situation where the odds are piled against her. There is a great deal of commentary on religion and the church, which is always interesting to me. “The greatest threat to any faith is not other faiths or beliefs but the corruption and division of it’s own message”. The difference between those that hide behind a belief structure and falsely use it to represent themselves and those whose every action defends the heart and spirit of their faith is laid bare for any observant reader to find and digest.

All in all Grey Sister is fantastic and another gift from Mark Lawrence to his loyal readers. The Ancestor Series will no doubt win him new fans and also satisfy us old gnarly one’s too. It’s his best work ever. 10/10

Thanks to AceRocBooks for sending me an ARC.
Profile Image for Becca & The Books.
312 reviews6,334 followers
November 11, 2021
Another solid instalment in the Book of The Ancestor series!

The first 150 pages of this took me a little while to settle into but after that I was immersed, once again loving the grim atmosphere and tone of Nona's story. Nona herself I still adore, one of my favourite things about this series being how you come to sympathise with and root for her throughout the story. I was however, a tad disappointed that this book unfolds in one part, as my favourite element of Red Sister was the interludes that gave us a glimpse at where our main characters were at a little into the future.

While I feel that Grey Sister really expanded the scope of the plot, I feel like we haven't really had any big reveals yet or moments of plot points coming together so I'm looking forward to finding out how the story concludes in Holy Sister!

Note - Grey Sister has a recap at the beginning that runs through all the important points from Red Sister if you need a refresh!
Profile Image for Gavin.
862 reviews392 followers
January 19, 2019
Just like the first book in the series this was a good coming of age action fantasy. Mark Lawrence has a fairly engaging writing style and the story had a good mix of action, humour, and drama. It also possessed characters that were easy to like and root for as well as a very intriguing fantasy world. The big plus is Grey Sister eliminated most of the flaws that held me back from giving Red Sister a full 5 star rating and was just a better book on the whole!

In terms of story it was more of the same as Nona spent time learning and growing her skills in the Convent of Sweet Mercy while being caught up in the political machinations of the Empire on the whole. She still has the ire of the Tacsis family and and the Convent as a whole remains of interest to the Emperor and his scheming sister Sherzal!

The story was pretty exciting and held my full attention from start to finish. That is an upgrade on Red Sister which I felt was a little hard to get into. With the world building firmly established and the characters already known to us readers it was easy to love Grey Sister from the very first page.

I feel like Grey Sister was a book improvement over Red Sister for a whole bunch of reasons. First was the disappearance, mostly, of the wretched flashforwards we had to suffer while reading Red Sister. I hated those things and felt they really detracted from the story as they were riddled with bleak and depressing spoilers! Second was a lessoning of the overly grim and bleak tone. This was still a gritty fantasy world full of grey characters but this time around I felt like Lawrence toned down a bit of the bleakness and the story ended up with a better, and more enjoyable, balance to it. Third was the fact that the story jumped ahead a few years which aged all the characters up by a few years. That was badly needed as the dialogue in the first book felt so unrealistic for kids that were so young!

Nona is the star of these books, and a super easy lead character to root for, but I felt like she was well supported in this one by Glass and Zole, both of whom showed great growth from the first book, and by Koet, the crazy new addition to the story! Glass and Kettle also had a good outing in this instalment. The only character who got less screen time was Ara. On the whole I felt poor Ara got a bit sidelined in this second book.

The Missing and Lawrence's fantasy world on the whole remains a fun and fascinating place but I do hope he expands on the hints we get about the Missing and some of the other intriguing mysteries in the story.

All in all I really enjoyed this and feel like it vies with Prince of Thorns as the best book I've read from Lawrence! I cannot wait for the third instalment.

Rating: 5 stars. An easy rating as this sorted most of the flaws from the first book and lost none of the stuff that made the story so enjoyable:)

Audio Note: I've got used to Helen Duff and felt she did fine with this one.
Profile Image for Lau ♡ (hiatus bc of finals).
370 reviews284 followers
November 21, 2022
“There are some lessons that must be written in scars.”

After loving Red Sister with all my heart, I was prepared to spend two more books seeing all the characters I fell for going through classes and surviving the occasional battle, but Mark Lawrence had other plans for them.

Grey Sister took a completely different turn that left me speechless, worried nothing was going to be the same again. I was kinda right, because it was so much better. Everything was new, exciting, surprising. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, didn’t know what they should do, who was going to survive and it was driving me crazy. The continuation of the scene that was the very start of book one is still keeping me on the edge. The more glimpses we get, the stronger is the need to know more.

Those novices are my friends and I would die for them. I would face a terror for them that I haven’t the courage to stand against on my own behalf.

I fell in love with all the characters in Red Sister, but seeing them mature as the stakes grow higher and they start to realize they have been playing a bigger game than they thought made my love grow to obsession.

PS: it’s great to see LGBT+ rep in adult fantasy books through characters that are not secondary ✨

“In the service of the Ancestor, death is but a kiss.”

Nona by Dominik Broniek

Book of the Ancestor:
1. Red Sister: 4.5
2. Grey Sister: 5
3. Holy Sister: 6 stars
Profile Image for Steven.
1,066 reviews383 followers
April 3, 2018
Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

Mark Lawrence, you've done it again. I raved about Red Sister (ps, thanks for sharing my blog post on your Facebook page! I got a bunch of views! WOOHOO!), well, because it was deserved. Like I said in my review for that, I struggle with high/epic/dark/true fantasy because it tends to be slower and harder for me to get into... and harder for me to forgive overused tropes and predictable plots.

So I said in my Red Sister review that Lawrence created a pretty easy to understand world (still true), a cast of characters with personality, depth, and vitality (he kicked that up another notch!), a cool magic system (gets even more badass)... and he does all of these things again in book two... all the while basically destroying the world he created in book one and building a new reality for our characters. This one, unlike the first, doesn't involve being safe inside the walls of the convent. This new world is DANGEROUS and full of enemies.

I also loved that we got chapters from the POV of Abbess Glass, and got to see her story unfold alongside Nona's.

All in all, to those who ask if this is "better than the first," I'll have to reply it's equal. I can't compare the two because it's so different, it so completely demolishes the world of the first book and deeply affects Nona to her very core.

That ending though? Mark, you're killing me here. Write faster. I need to know ALL THE THINGS. RIGHT NOW. *GIMME*
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,419 followers
June 24, 2020
This is the second instalment in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy.

Nona Grey is an inhabitant of the Sisters of Sweet Mercy convent, which trains its girls less in prayer and more in the art of death. Her new skills will soon be put to good use as all those outside of the convent walls, as well as a fair few inside it, wish to see Nona suffer for her past crimes and ultimately pay for it with her death.

Whilst I adored the first series instalment, which was largely set inside the convent and focused on the training the young girls undertook, this soon widened its focus and provided a larger political and geographical investigation. With this, the laws and magics of this kingdom were further explored and a far more complex story-line emerged.

Nona remained as bloody, bad-ass, and beloved as ever, but I also appreciated how other characters were also given their time in the spotlight, meaning I now have a whole band of knife-wielding, magic-possessing, poison-trained, seductively sinister females to fawn over!
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
576 reviews214 followers
April 23, 2019
I received an eARC copy of this book through the Penguin First to Read program.

Then, since school was bogging down my pleasure-reading time, I used an Audible credit to buy the audiobook once it became available. This was a great idea, because I was able to really devote some good listening time to one of my most looked-forward-to books of the year.

Ever since loving Red Sister so much, I've been itching to get back into Nona's world. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I found the early part very engaging, with some significant early surprises. It slowed down a bit through the middle, but then those last several chapters had me at the edge of my... earbuds.

So now the next book is one of my most looked-forward-to books of next year.
Profile Image for Olivia.
709 reviews120 followers
May 5, 2019
Re-read in 2019, and changing my rating from four to five stars.

I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review, but I have since bought the book.
"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men."

That is the first line in Red Sister, and the line that made me fall in love with Mark Lawrence's book. Just like in Red Sister his writing is beautiful, almost poetic. Every word is chosen meticulously.

The story continues to be dark, but it's also beautiful and filled with themes of friendship and loyalty and how to battle and overcome your inner demons. Grey Sister starts roughly two years after the final chapters of Red Sister.

Nona is a terrific character, well developed, hot-headed, filled with energy and wit. She's damaged, but fiery and passionate, and she fights for what she believes in. She's often unpredictable, but intelligent and one of my favourite fantasy protagonists despite her young age.

Red Sister mainly focused on Nona, here we also get to see the story from the point of view of Abbess Glass, who is the leader of the convent, and through the point of view of Sister Kettle. Throughout the book, the side characters feel more fleshed out than they were in Red Sister.

The world is complex and intriguing and Mark Lawrence expands the story behind it quite a bit. It's a dying world, ice is closing in on the people living there, from all sides and there's not much more than a corridor left. There's a lot of political intrigue in this, something I always enjoy in fantasy books.

This might turn into my favourite fantasy series if the third book delivers.

I highly recommend Red and Grey Sister to all fantasy fans.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
April 24, 2018
This is the second book in the series, and I was very keen to get my hands on it after having read the first one...so much so, that I picked up the audiobook which is out in the UK earlier than the physical book.

This once again follows the life of Nona Grey, the main protagonist from book #1. We pick up her story about 2 years after the ending of book one and we see her still as part of the deadly Nunnery and we follow her training and the way she has changed since events of book 1. She now has deep black eyes, and a new presence haunting her, and she's also still trying to prove herself and discover which of the paths she is destined to follow.

We have another couple of major characters: Abbess Glass, Kettle, Zole, Ara and more. I personally have to say I like Abbess Glass and Kettle a lot, they are both very much powerful, fierce, and wholly impressive characters. I love the way that they can command situations (particularly Glass) to their own schemes, and I think they have a distinctly loving side to them too which makes them feel human and real.

The magic of this world and the complexity is once more expanded upon in this volume where we see fights and conflict breaking out both within the Sister's ranks and outside of the Monastery. We also have a lot more political manoeuvring which is happening in the background, and seeing all of this come together in a fast-moving and fun plot was great.

My only very slight niggle is there are times where I felt the action was a bit too fast and maybe I would have liked to see a bit more time spent in a certain place/scene or explaining a bit more about the world/magic (but that's probably my epic fantasy heart talking!)

I really enjoyed the direction that Lawrence decided to take the story, I love the characters and the fact that so many of them are young women who stand alone without needing men or lovers to support them. We see each of them battle with bigger problems in a world bracing for war, and I think their stance is a lot more realistic than some of the love-struck heroines we are used to seeing.

Overall, a solidly good continuation and a world I am keen to return to. I look forward to seeing what will come next in this series, and whatever it is I am sure I will enjoy it. 4*s from me :)
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